Today we have a guest post from the England Money Lending Team, who are on a mission to stop loan sharks.
The England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) are a national team that investigate and prosecute loan sharks. Since 2004, the team have supported over 28,000 victims and written off over £73 million worth of illegal debt.
They have also secured more than 380 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity – that’s 330 years’ worth of custodial sentences for loan sharks who prey on the most vulnerable.
It is estimated that there are currently 310,000 households in debt to illegal money lenders in the UK.
But what is an illegal money lender? The law states that to lend money lawfully, the lender must be authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). People who run a money lending business without being FCA authorised are breaking the law and may be acting as loan sharks.
Loan sharks are criminals who charge extortionate interest rates and use callous methods to force people to pay the money back. The IMLT have encountered victims being forced into prostitution, drug dealing, and illegal money lending by the loan shark.
Debt bondage, also known as bonded labour, is the world’s most widespread form of modern slavery according to Anti-Slavery International. It can affect people of any age, gender or race.
Debt bondage occurs when people borrow money they cannot repay and are required to work to pay off the debt, resulting in them losing control over the conditions of both their employment and the debt.
Channel 4’s Ackley Bridge series recently featured a loan shark story line, which showed a young character being forced to work for a loan shark to pay off a family member’s debt.
In the programme, Missy (played by Poppy Lee Friar) found herself at the mercy of a loan shark when her mum’s boyfriend Craig left. He took his television with him, which he had purchased with assistance from the loan shark.
One scene showed the loan shark - Linda - threatening Missy and her mum with a late payment fee and a week’s worth of interest if they failed to keep up with the repayments on Craig’s debt.
In lieu of payment, Missy was forced to work on loan shark Linda’s burger van. It transpired she wasn’t the only person working for Linda in these circumstances.
How to spot a loan shark
Loan sharks may appear friendly at first but this behaviour soon changes when you owe them money. If you can answer yes to one or more of these questions, you might be borrowing from an illegal money lender:
Did they offer you a cash loan?
Did they not give you paperwork?
Did they add huge amounts of interest and extra charges to your loan?
Have they threatened you?
Are you scared of people finding out?
Have they taken your bank card, benefit card, passport, jewellery or other valuables from you?
To report a loan shark, call the 24 hour confidential hotline on 0300 555 2222. All calls are strictly confidential and the information isn’t divulged to the loan shark.
You can also report a loan shark online at www.stoploansharks.co.uk